Thursday, December 18, 2008

More on the Old Mill fire

Officials are now saying the fire Tuesday night at the Old Mill in North Little Rock could be arson.

Read more on the KARK Channel 4 website.

I still can't upload any of my great photos of the Old Mill for some reason. I'll keep trying. While you wait, take a look at a post from a while back with a photo of my girls and a lot of interesting facts about the Old Mill.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Old Mill on fire

The Old Mill in North Little Rock, the only surviving structure to have appeared in the classic film, "Gone with the Wind," experienced a fire last night!

According to KARK Channel 4, the fire was reported last night around 9 p.m. and was contained to the roof.

I hope it didn't do much damage and that it can be cleaned up. This place is just beautiful and my children love it.

I have a lot of photos of this beautiful landmark but wasn't able to upload one this morning. Maybe later!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Union Station

The impressive Union Station sits at Markham and Victory Streets in Little Rock. (No, your eyes aren't going bad, there was a smudge on my camera lens and I didn't realize it when I took this photo. I need to go get some better ones!)

Towering over the intersection of Markham and Victory Streets near downtown Little Rock, Union Station was built in 1921 and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

It is the third such building to occupy this site. The first was a wood-frame building erected in 1873 and torn down in 1906 to make way for an elaborate, Second Empire-style structure. Finished in 1911, that building was destroyed by fire.

The current Union Station was opened to the public on July 31, 1921. Today it houses a museum, restaurants, offices, and passenger rail offices.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Choctaw Station

Choctaw Station on the south bank of the Arkansas River. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it's the home of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the Clinton School of Public Service.

Choctaw Station, located at 1010 E. Third on the banks of the Arkansas River in Little Rock, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Built in 1899 by the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad, this large, ornate passenger depot became the property of the Rock Island Railroad in 1902 and served that line until the 1950s. It is embellished with exceptionally ornate terra cotta details which exhibit the influence of architect Louis Henry Sullivan.

This beautiful building is now the home of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the Clinton School of Public Service. Located beside the Clinton presidential center, the station can easily be seen on a trolley tour of downtown Little Rock.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Scenes from the Clinton Center

Photographs from our recent visit to the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park.

Monday, August 18, 2008

LEED Award at Clinton Center

The Clinton Center holds the impressive LEED Award for its environmentally responsible construction and sustainability practices.

Receptacles for recyclable materials are common sites around the Clinton Center grounds.

The William J. Clinton Presidential Center, a leader in environmentally-friendly building practices, holds a silver certification LEED Award.

LEED, a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000, awards buildings for environmentally-conscious building and sustainability practices.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Crystal Tree of Light

The Crystal Tree of Light at the Clinton Center is one of the most conversational pieces in the library. My girls get a close look at it on our last visit to the center.

One of the most interesting things at the Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock is the Crystal Tree of Light on the third floor.

President and Mrs. Clinton invited world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly to provide artwork for the White House Millennium celebration on Dec. 31, 1999. He created two identical towers of glass, both entitled Crystal Tree of Light. Both were installed in the Grand Foyer of the White House and were displayed until March 2000.

Four years later, one of the crystal trees was donated to the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation and installed permanently in the Clinton Center. It is this piece that visitors to the Little Rock center can ogle.

My girls always think it's rather odd-looking, and at first glance it is. It looks almost like serpents winding their way around but upon closer look it more resembles flower bulbs!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Modern day monument making history

The Clinton Presidential Center sits on the south bank of the Arkansas River, in Little Rock. Not only is it one of only 13 presidential libraries in the country, it is a leader in environmentally-friendly building and upkeep practices.

The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center and Park (also referred to as the Clinton Center or the Clinton Library; I prefer the former) is a modern day monument that is making history in many different ways.

The center had free admission today! I took the girls up there for a visit. We had recently been there back in February on a work-related trip. It was nice to go again with our own agenda, and sans baby.

The girls' favorite part was the water feature in front of the building! I enjoyed sitting out on the grounds after our tour. It was cool and breezy on the Arkansas River though the weather was fairly warm everywhere else in Central Arkansas.

I'll have some more information about the different features of the center in the days to come. There is a lot about this center that is very interesting.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Black facts online

Frederick Douglass was the only male to play a prominent role at the first Woman's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York. He seconded the woman's suffrage motion introduced by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. That happened 160 years ago on July 26, 1848.

That information comes from a site I found out about today, Black Facts Online. It's an online database of African-American historical facts. You can search by date, as I did to find the Frederick Douglass fact, or by name.

Douglass was one of my favorite historical characters.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Saturday Night Fish Fry!

There's going to be a "Saturday Night Fish Fry" this weekend in honor of Brinkley musician Louis Jordan this weekend!

The Arkansas Times gives all the details on this weekend's festivities in honor of the famed musician, who would have been 100 years old this month.

"Saturday Night Fish Fry" was one of his many fun-loving tunes about food and this weekend Louis Jordan fans can partake of some good down-home cooking in his honor. "Beans and Cornbread" is another, perhaps better-known, song of Jordan's about comfort food.

This weekend's festival is being overseen by Stephen Koch, a longtime fan of Jordan's and a champion of his music. In years past he spearheaded efforts to have this bust of Louis Jordan created. It is now on display in Brinkley's old train station, now the Central Delta Depot Museum.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

North Little Rock High School

North Little Rock High School is one of the community's landmarks.

Looming majestically over North Little Rock's business district, North Little Rock High School is considered a historical treasure. Built from 1928-1930, it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1993.

The "Laying of Corner Stone" program described the new building as "unsurpassed in architectural beauty."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Old Mill (artist's rendition)

This painting of the Old Mill is on the corner of Fifth and Main in North Little Rock.

As I was snapping photos of the historic Baker House in downtown North Little Rock, I couldn't help but notice this beautiful painting of the Old Mill. I've posted about the Old Mill before; it is one of our favorite places to visit and is the only known surviving structure filmed in the 1939 classic "Gone with the Wind."

The painting was done by Phillip Kirkpatrick but I wasn't able to find out anything else. I hope to in the near future.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Argenta Drug Company

The Argenta Drug Company is in downtown North Little Rock and is the oldest drugstore west of the Mississippi River.

Argenta Drug Company in downtown North Little Rock is a charming addition to a beautiful downtown area. It was built in 1887 and is known as the oldest continuously operating pharmacy west of the Mississippi River. It's part of the Argenta Historic District.

This building is the city's oldest commercial building and has been the home of three pharmacies -- Humphreys Drugs from 1887 to 1903, Hall Drug Company from 1903 to 1916, and Argenta Drug Company starting in 1917.

It recently underwent a face lift and now is sharper than ever. It's also busier than ever, or so it seemed the other afternoon when I stopped to take this photo one day last week.

Another interesting fact about this landmark was that U.S. Congressman Marion Berry was a pharmacist here in the 1960s.

I pass by this building frequently while taking care of business in downtown North Little Rock or heading into Little Rock.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Baker House in downtown NLR

The Baker House in downtown North Little Rock. I took this picture last week.

The beautiful Baker House in downtown North Little Rock is a Queen Anne Victorian style house that was built in 1898-99. It was restored in 1977 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cotter Bridge

I took this photo of my sister under the Cotter Bridge in 2005.

The Cotter Bridge in Baxter County (northern Arkansas) spans Highway 62 over the White River. It's a Marsh rainbow-arch bridge that was built in 1930. It is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

My sister and I went to the bridge three years ago so I could photograph her along the railroad tracks that run under the bridge.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Cleburne County courthouse

I took this photo of the Cleburne County courthouse in Heber Springs in 2005.

The Cleburne County Courthouse in Heber Springs is one of the many county courthouses listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1914, this courthouse was placed on the register back in 1976.

It's a building that I see often as I pass through town while in the area visiting good friends.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Campbell House recognized by NRHP

The Campbell House in Forrest City is a landmark building near downtown that is now used by the Junior Auxiliary. I took this photo when I went to the inaugural event hosted by the JA last year.

The Campbell House in Forrest City (St. Francis County in Eastern Arkansas) is very well-known building in the community. Built in 1917 for banker William Wilson Campbell, the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

Be sure to read what has to say about the home.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Century-old store building marks Woodruff County community

The old Revel General Store, built in 1907 in the Revel community in Woodruff County. I took the photo in March of 2006. In looking back at the photos I took of the store, I noticed that it had snowed a few days previously!

The old Revel General Store building is over 100 years old and is still standing in the tiny community of Revel, in Woodruff County. I visited with John W. Revel back in 2006 and he told me quite a bit about the community named for his family. Here is part of the story I wrote for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Three Rivers Edition:

The small farming community of Revel in Woodruff County, located on Highway 260 south of the larger cities of McCrory and Augusta, was founded by John W. “J.W.” Revel, grandfather of John W. Revel who still lives there on the Revel farm. The community carries on its farming roots and is marked by a historical building that has been there nearly a century.

John Revel, who was born in Woodruff County and raised in Memphis and Revel, made his home in Revel as a young adult to operate the family farm that had been started by his grandfather, J.W. Revel. He recalls hearing many of his grandfather’s stories, including the one where his grandfather walked to Arkansas from Illinois after the Civil War.

“My grandfather said he remembers walking home from the war,” Revel said with a chuckle. That wouldn’t be an experience one would quickly forget, especially considering the one that preceded it. A North Carolina native who moved to Shelby County, Tennessee with his family, Revel, who then spelled his name Revell, enlisted in the Confederate Army along with three of his brothers. He was captured by the Union and was held as a prisoner of war for nearly two years at the Alton Federal Military Prison in Illinois, according to Woodruff County Historical Society publications.

“When they turned him loose he walked back to Arkansas,” his grandson John Revel said. It was after J.W. Revel’s release in 1865 that he walked back to the South and settled the land that came to be known as the Revel community. He first rented farmland and then purchased it, a total of about 1,800 acres.

“He homesteaded 1,800 acres of land,” Revel, who now lives on what remains of this property, said.


Mr. Revel was full of memories and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with him and seeing his model train station he built himself.

The website has a piece about the old Revel store and several other historical buildings in Woodruff County.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cotton Plant water tower now an official historic structure

The water tower in Cotton Plant (in Woodruff County in Eastern Arkansas and just a few miles from my hometown of Brinkley) has been recognized as a historic structure.

It has just been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

It was built in 1935 with assistance from the Public Works Administration (PWA), a federal relief program in existence in the Great Depression times.

I'll be writing about the water tower pretty soon for the Three Rivers Edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In the meantime, take a look at what has to say about it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Weldon structures named to NRHP

The Weldon Gin Company Historic District in southern Jackson County has just been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The old depot building, which sits right along Highway 17 in the tiny farming community, has been listed for years.

There are actually several old buildings still standing in town.

I wrote about the community for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Three Rivers Edition back in the summer of 2004. In fact, it was the first piece I wrote for the section. Here is a small part of the story:

The community is a mere shadow of what it was in years past, with all its stores, mills, cotton gin, brick kiln, church and school.

But its charm remains with many of the old buildings that still stand, some in surprisingly good shape.

"It has a little bit of character because of the old buildings," Ralph McDonald, a native now living in nearby Newport, noted.

One of its buildings, the train depot, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Another, the old cotton gin, still houses all the machinery used to gin cotton.


I'm getting ready to write about the gin company being placed on the historic register for the Three Rivers Edition.

In the meantime, take a look at what has to say about the gin company.

Monday, June 30, 2008

White County community got start in farming

A story about the Pickens Chapel community in White County at the Cleburne County line for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2005 is available on the community's website. (More Googling if you're wondering how I know!)

The tiny community appears as Pickens on the state highway map but is commonly known as Pickens Chapel. The focal structure in town is a church by the same name. Land was donated for the building in 1913 by the Pickens family.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Former slave founds community

The other night I was Googling myself (don't ask) and ran across a story I wrote last year for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette still posted online. It's about Blackville, a tiny community in Jackson County founded by and named for a former slave, Pickens Black.

Here is part of the story:

Blackville in southern Jackson County was founded and named for a former slave, Pickens Black.

Founded in 1891 by Pickens Black, a former slave who came to Jackson County from Alabama, the community came to be an important area in Jackson County with thriving farms, churches, schools, and even an airport.

Black was 14 when he came to the area after the Civil War. The teenager who worked odd jobs so he could buy a 40-acre farm eventually owned thousands of acres, 8,000 or more, and was one of the more prominent landowners in the area.

The deeds to some of his earliest land purchases were recorded in the Jackson County Courthouse court clerk's office. A large paperboard cutout of Black is now set up in the very same room where Black came to record his purchases. Researchers can take a look at some of Black’s documents in this room, now one of the exhibit rooms at the Jackson County Courthouse Museum.

As his landholdings and farm operations grew, Black employed well over 300 families, both black and white. Although he became one of the area’s largest landholders, Black continued working hard as a farmer. R.C. Laird, a retired farmer, recalled seeing Black working along with everyone else in town.

Read the entire story at the Democrat-Gazette's website.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Stalking your Brinkley ancestors!

"The 1930 Brinkley Census and How to Stalk Your Ancestors"

Bill Sayger's second volume of "A Brinkley Remembrancer" begins with that engaging headline and some really interesting information about Brinkley's population several decades ago:

There were 3,046 souls living in Brinkley in 1930; 1,637 were listed as "Whites" and 1,409 as "Negroes." We learn that from the census taken that year, from April 2nd thru May 1st, by Edgar T. McCreight, who had an insurance office in town.

A little further down the page, Sayger continues:

As one researches back in time, less and less information is available from the census record. For example, Blacks were only listed by name beginning with the 1870 census, unless they had been freed. On the early census records, a distinction was made between Blacks and Mulattoes. All Whites were listed by name beginning in 1850. Prior to that only the name of the head of the household was shown, with others -- the wife, children, or other family members, and the slaves -- listed under age groups, such as 1 to 10, 11 to 24, etc. Though not listed by name in 1850 and 1860, slaves were listed under their owner's names by their exact age, sex, and whether Black or Mulatto.

The next 60-plus pages of the book are copies of pages of the 1930 census. They are a bit hard on the eyes but worth looking at, especially if you had relatives in town then. (I did not.)

These two volumes of local history are very well researched and presented very personally with typed pages and even a few hand-written additions.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Louis Jordan, musician extraordinaire

A few days ago I was telling you about the history volume entitled "A Brinkley Remembrancer" and the second one, aptly named "A Brinkley Remembrancer, Part 2." Both are written by Bill Sayger, devoted Eastern Arkansas historian.

The cover of the second volume features a photograph of Louis Jordan, famous musician, and his father, Jim Jordan. Page 70 of the book has this information:

Louis Jordan, born and raised in Brinkley, was one of the nation's best known bandleaders, saxophone players, and popular songwriters in the 1940s ... James Jordan taught band to Brinkley, Cotton Plant, and Dark Corner young people.

The following page contains a reprint of a story published in the "Arkansas Times" in 2001 along with further information about James and Louis Jordan:

Jordan's father, known as Jim, played in minstrel shows and in the off season was at home and directed the Brinkley Brass Band, which Louis became a member of. [Louis] was strongly influenced in his early years by his father, his aunt Lizzie Reed, and Naomi Gettis, all of Brinkley and all musically proficient.

Read more about Bill Sayger, historian, at

Read more about Louis Jordan at the Encyclopedia of Arkansas and on my website Arkansas Profiles.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Florence Price, Arkansas musician

Florence Beatrice Smith Price was the first African-American female composer to have a symphonic composition performed by a major American symphony orchestra.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony in E Minor on June 15, 1933.

She is part of a display of Arkansas artists now up at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Born and raised in Little Rock, Smith published musical pieces while still in high school. She graduated as valedictorian from Capitol Hill School in 1903.

Smith received her musical education in Boston and came back to Arkansas to teach. She was a music teacher for one year at the Cotton Plant-Arkadelphia Academy in Cotton Plant, only 8 miles from my hometown of Brinkley. When she left Cotton Plant she went to teach at Shorter College in North Little Rock, where I currently reside. She later taught and composed music in Atlanta, Little Rock, and Chicago. An elementary school in Chicago is named for her.

Read more about this trail-blazing musician at the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Wikipedia also has an informative piece.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

William Grant Still, Little Rock composer

William Grant Still was the first African-American composer to have a symphony performed by an American orchestra.

He is part of a display of Arkansas artists now up at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Still was born in Woodville, Mississippi, and moved to Little Rock when he was a baby with his mother. He graduated as valedictorian from Gibbs High School in Little Rock in 1911.

Still had several other African-American musical firsts. He was the first African-American to conduct a major symphony orchestra, the first African-American to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television.

Read more about William Grant Still here. As always, the Encyclopedia of Arkansas has an excellent piece on the subject.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Consolidated White River Academy

The Consolidated White River Academy in Brinkley was founded the late 1800s so that African-American students in the area could finish high school.

A number of African-American church groups created the academy so that a Christian education following the model of Tuskegee Institute would be available to young people who at that time had extremely limited opportunities to get an education.

An excellent piece about the Consolidated White River Academy can be found at the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas. It was written by my high school history teacher and a young lady who freelanced at the local paper in our hometown when I was the editor.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fargo Agricultural School

Geraldine Davidson, curator of the Fargo Agricultural School, shows a scale model of the school (top photo) that she constructed and her photo in the composite for the class of 1947 (bottom photo).

For 30 years, from 1919-1947, Fargo Agricultural School in northern Monroe County was one of the few places African-Amercian students in Monroe County could get an education.

The school was started by Floyd Brown, a graduate of Tuskegee Institute who had studied under Booker T. Washington.

The students lived at the school, learning academics in the morning hours and spending the afternoons learning crafts and skills like woodworking and farming for the boys and cooking and sewing for the girls.

Geraldine Purcell Davidson, a native of the area who graduated from the school in 1947, for many years has been the curator of the Fargo Agricultural School Museum. Located on the campus of the former school, the museum is a sprawling and impressive collection of photographs, school papers, books, and items the students made like tables and uniforms. Mrs. Davidson gives the best museum tours I've ever had.

You'll definitely want to add this museum to the list of places in Arkansas you want to visit. In the meantime, you can read about FAS and its founder, Floyd Brown, at the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Old Marion Anderson High School

The old Marian Anderson High School building (along with the gym and elementary school) in Brinkley has been torn down in recent years.

Located on Grand Avenue in my Eastern Arkansas hometown, the school was where Brinkley's African-American students were educated until integration finally reached us in the early 1970s. Incidentally, the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional way back in 1954; the infamous Central High School desegregation happened in 1957. Almost 20 years after segregation was found to be unconstitutional in public schools, Brinkley schools were integrated and the Marion Anderson High School was no longer used as such.

Instead, the old building with its high ceilings and hardwood floors became Brinkley's junior high school. It was there that I attended the seventh and eighth grade; I had attended fifth and sixth grade in the former elementary school right there on the same property.

Years later the buildings were deemed unsafe because of asbestos and the seventh and eighth grades were moved to the high school and fifth and sixth grades to the elementary school.

I find it interesting that at the time I was attending the old Marion Anderson High School as Brinkley Junior High, I was aware only of the name of the school. I did not realize that it had been the local high school for African-American students nor did I know who Marion Anderson was.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Forrest City High School building

The old Forrest City High School building is now the district's administration offices.

Built in Classical Revival style in 1915, the original Forrest City High School building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

Many of its charming original features remain, including the hardwood floors that now slant in places, and the flights of stairs that are worn in the middle from the many years of pounding from young feet on their way to class.

What remains of the building is now used for the local school district’s administrative offices. It’s also the home of the documents chronicling the building’s history.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Old Jamestown school building

The Jamestown school building in Independence County is in excellent shape and is used for community gatherings. The original school bell is still in place.

The 1926 three-room frame school building in Jamestown (near Batesville in Independence County) remarkably still has its original school bell. It was listed in 1992 thanks to the efforts of former student Bubba Burks and others.

The original wood flooring and walls are still there in the building, and old fashioned benches and a piano complete the country schoolhouse decor. A partition that was used to divide the large main room into two smaller classrooms is still in working order.

The old school building is now the Jamestown community center. Dinners, reunions, and the annual Jamestown homecoming are held there. It is for certain that a lot of reminiscing about bygone school days takes place during those gatherings.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Old Maxville school

The old Maxville school building in Sharp County is still in good shape.

The Maxville one-room rock school building in Sharp County has been renovated and is used for storage by Larry Brown, a retired Cave City superintendent.

The mid-1930s Works Progress Administration building has a new roof and vinyl siding on small portions of the exterior.

The first Maxville school was in a log church built in 1875; classes were being held there in the Methodist church by 1871. Another schoolhouse was built around the turn of the century about a mile south of the log church. Built with free local labor on land deeded by Columbus Snow, the school taught children up to eighth grade.

Maxville’s wood schoolhouse burned in 1934 and students held classes in the Methodist church, which had been the first school for the community, while waiting for the new fieldstone school to be built. Located about 300 yards south of the old school, that building was used until 1948 when Maxville consolidated with Cave City.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Poughkeepsie School in Sharp County

The old Poughkeepsie School is a beautiful stone structure in Sharp County.

The 1929 rock school buildings at Poughkeepsie in Sharp County were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

The main rock building was constructed after the original school burned. Until the new school was completed, elementary school students finished out the term at the Church of Christ and the high school students went to the Baptist church for classes. They utilized the Masonic Lodge space on the second level of the church building.

When it was completed, the new stone building educated students up until 12th grade.

“I went to school there the first day it opened,” Ima Jean Norris pointed out with a smile. She was in the seventh grade then.

Several years afterward, another stone building was constructed and used as the agricultural classroom. A white building behind that was the elementary school.

For years the campus was the site of school reunions. “Big crowds would come from all over,” Norris pointed out.

The Poughkeepsie school served as such until just a few years ago, and now the site is owned by Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mount Pleasant in Izard County. The campus, which has been renamed Camp Cornerstone, is now used for youth camps and other related functions.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One-room schoolhouses

The Stone Schoolhouse in Independence County is one of many old one-room schoolhouses still standing and in use across Arkansas.

One-room schoolhouses are a thing of the past, but decades ago the buildings were the center of the community. Built in the early part of the 20th century, the remaining little schoolhouses hearken back to a time when life was lived in tiny communities and revolved around school, church, and neighbors.

In days gone by, one- and two-room schoolhouses were scattered every few miles and children walked to get there every day. Many only went up to eighth grade with just one or two teachers for the entire school. In the two-room schools, one teacher instructed children in first to fourth grade, and the fifth to eighth grade children had another teacher.

The memories that took place at these small schoolhouses are still strong in the minds of those who attended.

“A lot of national history goes back to that place,” E.R. Coleman said magnanimously of the Stone Schoolhouse where he got his early education. To prove it, he’s collecting memories — about 500 pages worth — that he may publish someday.

You can read more about the Stone County Schoolhouse in Independence County and about quite a few other one-room schoolhouses around the state on my website Arkansas Profiles.

Desha School in Independence County

Jamestown School in Independence County

Maxville School in Sharp County

Poughkeepsie School in Sharp County

These are some of the photographs of old school buildings in Arkansas that I have taken over the last few years. I will share more of them with you in the days and weeks to come.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Integration of Hoxie schools

The schools in Hoxie weren't the first to integrate but were the first to be met with active resistance. The fight took place mostly in the courtroom and went on for months.

The first day of integration in Hoxie was July 11, 1955, a year after the court decision Brown vs. Board of Education declared segregation unconstitutional but more than two years before the infamous Central High School fiasco that took place in September 1957.

A small group of opposers collected outside the school for the first morning of integration, but the first few days and weeks went relatively smoothly. "Life" magazine was there to document the event. Public reaction to the photos that were published by the magazine on July 25 was swift and quite negative.

Seeing the black and white students together in the photos incited the town's segregationists, who launched an attack against the school board. Numerous white citizen groups were formed to oppose integration, with their underlying fear being that integrated schools would ultimately lead to intermarriage.

In researching and preparing to write a piece on Hoxie's integration for STAND News last fall, I communicated with Ms. Fayth Hill Washington. As one of the students who had been part of the integration back in 1955, her comments shed great light on the situation.

This experience in Hoxie was desegregation, in my opinion, verses an integration. I say that because even after things leveled off, we were not integrated into the school or the State. We remained segregated, unable to participate in any extra-curricular activities outside of the school, including choir trips, and sports. The 25 African American students were pioneers and faced many challenges and experiences. One challenge was trying to become a part of something you know nothing about with a benchmark. There were no African American teachers anywhere and [there was an] obvious lack of preparation for the experience and transition plan for the 25 African American students. The white teachers did not know how to teach us, as they did not know anything about us, our culture or what was offensive to us.

Ms. Washington had many other enlightening comments that I hope to share with you here and on my website Arkansas Profiles.

In the meantime, the Encyclopedia of Arkansas has some insightful information on this event.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Remembering Brinkley

While going through some of my things this past weekend, I ran across something I hadn't seen in a while — a soft-bound, two-volume history of Brinkley, my hometown. What a treasure.

"A Brinkley Remembrancer" and "A Brinkley Remembrancer Part 2," the volumes were written and produced by Bill Sayger, the director of the Central Delta Depot Museum.

The cover of the first volume has a sketch of Robert C. Brinkley, the railroad official for whom the town was named. The second volume's cover features a photo of two Brinkley sons, Louis Jordan and his father, Jim Jordan.

In the coming weeks I hope to share with you some of the gems from these publications.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

King of Ragtime

Many people have heard the famous score "The Entertainer," but it may come as a surprise to many that its composer, Scott Joplin was both African-American and lived in Arkansas for a time. Billed as the "King of Ragtime," he was born in Texas and lived in Texarkana.

He also lived for a time in Sedalia, Mo., now the home of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival. Good music and fun will be going on there this coming week at the 28th annual festival from June 4-8.

Here's a great source for some information about Joplin:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stax Museum of American Soul Music

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis is the only soul music museum in the world. I made a trip to the museum a couple of years ago with a group from East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City.

One of the many displays features Al Green, a native of Forrest City.

Read the resulting story that was published in the newspaper and be sure to read my personal account of the day —

Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Historical sites to see

The Arkansas State Capitol is one of the places on our list of historical sites to see this summer.

With summer quickly approaching, the kids and I are making a list of fun, free things to do in Little Rock/North Little Rock this summer. Several historical sites are on the list and I hope to add some more. We've visited some of them already but the kids enjoyed everything so much and have been asking to go back. A few of the historical sites already on our list are:

*Central High School Visitors' Center
*Old Mill
*Old State House Museum
*State Capitol

There is a nice listing of free attractions in the Little Rock area here:

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Old Mill

The Old Mill in North Little Rock is the only structure from the 1939 award-winning movie "Gone with the Wind" to survive until now. It was featured in the opening scenes of the movie.

Never used as an actual mill, the Old Mill is part of the T.R. Pugh Memorial Park. Developer Justin Matthews contracted for the construction of a replica of a water-powered grist mill in 1931, and named the park surrounding the area in honor of his friend Pugh in 1933.

The mill, which is not a copy of any particular mill, is intended to appear abandoned as any early 1800s mill would have been in the 1930s. Though the structure was never used, many elements of it are genuine. From a brochure about the mill:

*The grist mill itself on the first floor came from the Cagle family of Pope County and dates back to 1828.

*The large mill rock on the first floor bear dates of 1823 and 1840.

*The two mill rocks on the second floor and the building's corner stone came from the plantation of Tom Knoble, Pugh's grandfather.

*Two milestones on the old road to the mill were moved there from a military road load out in the 1830s by Lt. Jefferson Davis, who later became the President of the Confederacy.

*Three sections of a wrought iron shaft protecting the "Broken Tree Bench" were cut from the stern wheel of a passenger steamboat which traveled the Arkansas River in the 1800s.

It's free to visit this beautiful mill and park area. Our girls thoroughly enjoyed it a few months ago (photo above) and are begging to go back.

Second oldest city in Arkansas

Batesville is the second oldest settlement in Arkansas and the oldest surviving city. Arkansas Post, the first settlement and first capitol of the Arkansas Territory, is no longer inhabited.

The Independence County town along the White River was named for Judge James Woodson Bates, the first delegate to Congress from the Territory of Arkansas.

For centuries a place of importance because of its location on the White River, Batesville and the surrounding area was Native American land until the first few years of the 19th century. Europeans settled along Poke Bayou in the very early 1800s and called their settlement Poke Bayou. Later the name was changed to Batesville. Bates lived there and practiced law for a time after his Congressional service was up. Today the town of a little less than 10,000 is thriving and alive with history.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Arkansas' first state capitol building

The first state capitol of Arkansas and the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi is now the Old State House Museum in downtown Little Rock.

Some other interesting facts about the building, taken from the self-guided tour tip sheet and brochures at the museum:

* Slaves helped construct the Old State House from 1833-1846 by making bricks on the site.

* The steamship Ozark sank in the Arkansas River with a cargo of limestone intended for use in building the Old State House.

* A state representative was killed in the original House Chamber in 1837 by the Speaker of the House during a legislative session.

* The Union Army utilized the Old State House as its Arkansas headquarters after it occupied Little Rock in 1863.

* The Old State House once had columns on the side facing the Arkansas River just like the columns on the side facing Markham Street.

* The Old State House was the site of the Crossett Experiment that led to the eradication of malaria-bearing mosquitoes and was the first home of the University of Arkansas School of Medicine.

* President Bill Clinton made his election night speeches in 1992 and in 1996 at the Old State House.

* The Old State House was named a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

Even the grounds of the museum are educational. This photo was taken today out on the grounds, which feature monuments to characters of Arkansas history along with this stone marker my kindergarten child attempted to read!

More information about the treasures of history held at Old State House can be found at Admission to the museum is free.

More from the Old State House

The view from the front of the gorgeous Old State House Museum in downtown Little Rock is shown in the top photo, which I took today.

My niece gets a good look at one of the monuments on the grounds of the Old State House. Her sister and two cousins also enjoyed all the markers, including a large monument honoring David Owen Dodd.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Where it all started

Just a short drive from my hometown is a National Historic State Park and monument that preserves a very significant piece of history. It's the Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park that marks the point from which all surveys of the Louisiana Purchase Territory originated.

At first glance it is a natural preserve, a rare headwater swamp punctuated by towering tupelos and all manner of wildlife. A walk down a 950-foot bridge, though, leads you to a stone monument that declares that spot as the base from which the lands of the Louisiana Purchase were surveyed.

The land purchase, made in 1803, more than doubled the size of the United States; these lands were to be distributed among veterans of the War of 1812 as payment. In 1815 the government ordered an initial point for the surveys to be established. The survey party of Prospect K. Robbins set a north-south line and the party of Joseph C. Robbins surveyed an east-west line or baseline. Their paths crossed in what is now Monroe County in Eastern Arkansas on Nov. 10, 1815.

The surveyers marked two trees at their crossing point but until 1927 that was the only record of this important spot. The L'Anguille Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution believed this spot needed to be permanently marked and preserved. In 1927 the women donated the stone monument that sits in the swamp today. Another big day came on April 19, 1993 when this spot was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase was celebrated in 2003 with much fanfare. My hometown and home county became the focus of the country for a while since Brinkley is the closest town to the park.

A wealth of information about the park can be found at The Encyclopedia of Arkansas or better yet, by making a trip down Highway 49 South to the park. That's the only way to truly appreciate the towering swamp trees, the sounds of the wildlife, and the magnitude of history that took place in this remote area.

My little ones soaked it all up on a trip there in November 2005. In this photo I took, they are dwarfed by the tall trees of this swampy area.

Pictures from Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park

The top photo shows the stone monument marking the initial spot of all surveys of Louisiana Purchase Territory lands.

The second photo shows the path between the tupelos taken by the surveying parties.

I took these photos in November 2005.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The legend lives on

A bust of Louis Jordan, famous entertainer from Brinkley, Arkansas, greets visitors at the Central Delta Historical Museum in Brinkley.

Louis Jordan, one of the top R&B entertainers of all time whose height of fame was in the 1940s, and I share the same hometown of Brinkley in Eastern Arkansas.

His songs, including “Beans and Cornbread,” “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens,” “Let the Good Times Roll” and many others are much better known than his name and his origin. I never knew of him until several years ago. Until a few years ago there was no trace of him anywhere in Brinkley. Now the Central Delta Historical Museum in downtown Brinkley has a bust of him along with a great display.

I wrote a piece on him just for my writing website Arkansas Profiles. It focuses not only on his career but the way he was received in Brinkley. There is also some great information at The Encyclopedia of Arkansas and at

An update on my story about him is that the house in Brinkley where he spent much of his childhood is in the process of being torn down.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

First settlement in Arkansas

Today it's a beautiful natural area, much as it was before it became the first permanent settlement in Arkansas and the first capital of the Arkansas Territory. It was also one of the first European settlements west of the Mississippi. It's Arkansas Post, located in Arkansas County near Gillett.

The Arkansas River running just below, Arkansas' original permanent settlement is now devoid of life save for the scampering squirrels and other wildlife, and the people who come to see this site. Now the Arkansas Post National Memorial, this place was once bustling with commerce and life. There was even a newspaper there, the "Arkansas Gazette." It was printed by William Woodruff, who took his publication to Little Rock when that city became the new capital.
Here is a photograph I took of a water cistern that is the only remains of the estate of Frederic Notrebe, the town's most prosperous entrepreneur. His residence, store, and warehouse occupied this spot.

Take a few minutes to read the piece I wrote about the Arkansas Post National Memorial for the Stuttgart newspaper a few years ago. It is located at

Origin of the name Arkansas

Many names of places in our state come from the languages of the explorers who discovered and lived in Arkansas. The Native Americans, Spanish, French, and Americans all helped name places in our state. The word ARKANSAS came from the Quapaw Indians, by way of early French explorers.

The explorers met a group of Native Americans, known as the UGAKHPAH, which means PEOPLE WHO LIVE DOWNSTREAM. These Native Americans were later called the QUAPAW, who were also called the ARKANSAW. This name came to be used for the land where these Native Americans lived.

(This information comes from the booklet "Arkansas" published by Secretary of State Charlie Daniels and used in classrooms in the state. My third grade daughter and kindergarten daughter have both studied this book recently.)

Welcome to Historical Happenings!

This is where the introductory post goes, so here goes! ;-) This blog is about history, something I love and something I've wanted to blog about for some time. I love Arkansas history and African-American history in particular, so I will focus on those topics in my blog but that's not to say that other historical tidbits aren't of interest to me and won't be included in my history blog!

These historical treasures will come from many sources — I have a nice collection of them in a paper folder and on my computer — including books, brochures, television programs, and personal visits to museums and other places. From time to time I might include something from the Internet as well. For the most part, though, I want to include bits of information that are not widely available.

The plan is to post a little bit of history every few days so check back often for more!